Glendale opens things up, raises drama in Supercross season


1/30/2018

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We've completed just four rounds, yet the 2018 AMA Supercross season already has proven to be among the most dramatic in recent history. Last weekend's race in Glendale put an exclamation mark on that with some of the most intense racing thus far--it just seems to keep getting better. 

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After a nightmarish start to the season that put him in a deep deficit--nearly 50 points off the title chase--Eli Tomac has put together back-to-back wins and now sits "just" 36 points down. Of course, that is a lot of ground to make up against rivals such as Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and a revitalized Justin Barcia, but let's not forget that he made up nearly that many last year in his failed bid to catch Ryan Dungey for the title. If Tomac wins out, and the others remain somewhat inconsistent--like they have been--well, he just may be able to do it.

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Inconsistent results and great racing isn't limited to the 450 class, though. Aaron Plessinger (above) rebounded from a forgettable Anaheim 2 to take a convincing win ahead of the two red plates (tied for the lead) of Shane McElrath and Joey Savatgy. Plessinger was able to regain the points lead, going into this weekend's round in Oakland with a scant 1 point advantage. With it being a day race (the night show starts at 3:30 Pacific Time), it is likely to make an already unpredictable class of talent even less predictable, which of course only adds to the fun.

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Perhaps more so now than ever, Shane McElrath is a legitimate title threat. Already with a main event and a couple of heat race wins this year, the TLD veteran is always one of the fastest on the track at any given time. Add that to a new-found race craft that has landed him on the podium all but once, and the latest version of Shane McElrath promises to be in the mix every time he hits the track.

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Another rider who's consistency is lacking a bit, but is improving, is Jason Anderson. Carrying the red plate now into his third event, Anderson needs to rebound off his relatively poor result in Glendale and make a statement in Oakland. To allow Tomac to stamp his authority in another round may lead to a long season for the New Mexico native, since, in the past, he's struggled with his consistency and ability to stay off the ground. If Tomac runs the table, Anderson needs to be on the podium. It's as simple as that.

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It seems odd to call Ken Roczen a dark horse for the title, but that's exactly the role he fills  this season. Roczen's speed and consistency has been building steadily through the first four rounds, and with a better start in Glendale, he may have been a threat for the win. As it was, he was forced to slice and dice his way through the pack and was quite successful at it. Ending up third, Ken was closing the gap on Barcia, who in turn seemed to be catching Tomac (who may well have been in cruise mode at that point of the race). Roczen's now third in points, 12 behind Anderson, so he's definitely in a good spot as he continues to improve every weekend. It's certainly not a matter of if Roczen will win a race, but when. He, too, needs to prevent Tomac from winning too much more, or, at the very least, needs to minimize poor finishes and not allow Tomac to take advantage of them. Roczen is back, and you can expect him to be even better in Oakland.

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Certainly worth mentioning in this talk of the 450SX class front-runners is Justin Brayton, who is just heading out of the frame in the photo above. That's Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia that he's ahead of there during their heat race, and he remained ahead of them to the finish line. Brayton's raw speed is just about as good as anyone's at this point in his career and, while calling him a title favorite may be a stretch, he certainly is a podium threat, and possibly even a consistent one. Brayton's currently sitting sixth in points, just two behind Cole Seely.

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Of course, the talk of the town is another Justin--Barcia. With a revitalized attitude and new team, Barcia is riding a 450cc machine like he never has before. Super fast and intense, he's often the quickest rider on the track and has tasted the lead several times. After nearly running down Tomac last weekend, Barcia's probably never been more confident and prepared than he seems to be right now. He's also never been as close to the red plate in the 450SX class before, as he's now just 9 points out of the lead in second place. Barcia's breakout win is just around the corner, and once he accomplishes that, he's going to be even hungrier. At this point, he's definitely in the hunt for the title.

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Pre-season favorite Marvin Musquin is slowly getting back to form after his shoulder injury in Houston. With a fifth place finish in Glendale, Musquin is clealry improving and was at least able to finish the main (he was not at Anaheim 2), so things are on the up and up for the Frenchman. Maybe Oakland is when we'll see the Musquin we all expected this season--the one who won the season opener in Anaheim just a few weeks ago.

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Yet another surprise and someone who'll be looking to make a statement in Oakland is Cole Seely. Nearly the winner of A2 Triple Crown format (he won the first main), Seely's riding with speed, precision and confidence that he's given us only brief glimpses of in the past. Unfortunately, Glendale was a fairly big setback for him. After a poor start in the main and knocking the wind out of himself late in the race, Seely was able only to muster a 12th place, which dropped him to fifth in the point standings. 

Oakland promises to be a barn-burner, and with it being a day race, it should be an interesting Saturday by the bay. The timing for this round is closer to what an outdoor national motocross is, with heat races beginning at around 4 p.m. Check out Supercrosslive.com for TV times, and check our Facebook page and Instagram account (@amasupercross) for up to the minute coverage.


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